Applicants for residence permits cards (Karta Pobytu) are experiencing massive delays these days. People who have been waiting for their permit for over a year, people getting their residence permit card only to see that it will expire the next week and they have to apply again… These are true tragedies for some.

That’s why I have decided to share with you some tips and hints regarding the application process. 

Please keep in mind that all the information in this article is based solely on our own experience with applying for a temporary residence permit (7 applications for a temporary residence permit during 6 years) and does not constitute a source of law. However, having done it more than 7 times now, I would like to share my experiences with you in hope that it will help you someday or save you some time! 

Making an appointment

For some time now, in Warsaw (and also in some other major cities in Poland), in order to make an appointment, you need to create an account via website. I could write an entire article about how horribly designed and not user-friendly this system is, but for now, let’s focus on getting through it as quickly and painlessly as possible. 

First of all, prepare to make an appointment long in advance. The system is quite often down, which may ruin your plans. 

After logging in, just click on “Usługi” link. Yes, the sentence “Nie masz jeszcze rezerwacji? Dodaj ją Usługimenu” doesn’t make much sense, but let’s leave it for now.

Also, make sure you have your location (in the top right corner) selected. Otherwise, you will end up with a blank page like this, wondering why it hasn’t loaded and where the hell you should click now:

If something doesn’t work as it should, try another browser (I believe there wasn’t much of cross-browser testing…). 

When looking for an available slot, be patient and prepared for a lot of clicking. There is no set time at what they release new slots (there are, however, rumours that the system is updated at 1 or 2 am), so you just need to be trying from time to time. Most likely you will be able to book a date that is 30 days away. 

In the waiting room

If you don’t speak any Polish, bring a Polish-speaking person with you. Many of the staff don’t speak (or don’t want to speak) English and you may miss some important information regarding your case of documents you need to prepare.

The first thing that may worry you is when you see that a person with number 202 is being served while you have a number 201… Did you miss your turn? No. It’s just that the numbers not necessarily are called in the right order. Just wait patiently until you get called.

Required documents and everything that can go wrong with them

Let’s suppose that you have gathered and prepared all the documents based on the website of the Office for Foreigners:

They include i.a.:

  • Completed form of the application for a temporary residence permit
  • 4 up-to-date photographs
  • Photocopy of a valid travel document 
  • etc…

Now, what is not there (but in practice mandatory in order to place the application correctly)? For example: 

  • A copy of your current Karta Pobytu. If you are lucky and the person attending you is in a good mood, he or she will make a copy for you. If not… prepare for some serious whining.
  • A payment confirmation. The websites do not specify when the payment has to be made, so you may well assume that you will just pay when handing in the papers. Wrong. You need to pay in advance and have a paper payments confirmation with you – you can pay either by bank transfer or before handing in the documents, at a special counter.

Annex No 1

If you are applying for a temporary residence and work permit, when submitting the application you should also attach annex No 1, filled in by your employer. It is a 6-page document and a very important one. Make sure that:

  • Your employer signs it with his/her full name and surname. Polish people have a tendency to sign documents with a signature that is short and does not necessarily contain their full name, in which case your application will “contain formal defects”, which means you will have to hand in the corrected document within 7 days or your application will be turned down! In some cases, it is quite difficult to chase a CEO of a big corporation just to get this one signature again and again… 
  • The person who signs it is actually authorized to do so. Look up your company here: people who are stated there can sign your documents! Double check if the HR person at your company tells you that they will sign it and that there will be no problem…
  • All the fields in the form are filled in! Check especially the last pages – for example, there is a section “I hereby declare, that (tick the true answer with ‘X’)” where an “X” needs to be put. If even a one “X” is missing (and trust me, it’s easy to miss it), your application will “contain formal defects” and you will have to come back again to hand it in…

Health insurance

One of the requirements for almost all types of a temporary residence permit is having documents proving health insurance. 

If you are employed by a company, you most likely have health insurance paid monthly by your employer. In order to prove it, you need to ask your employer to provide you with a document from ZUS (Social Security Institution) stating that he/she has been paying for it.

The problem is that those documents are usually valid only for 30 days, while the Office for Foreigners requires such a document to be valid on the day of issuing a decision regarding your residence permit. The problem is – you never know for sure when your decision will be issued! In practice – as I was told at the Office – you need to send a new and valid document from ZUS to the Office for Foreigners every month! (or at least in the month when you know a decision should be made). So that they have a valid one at the time of issuing the decision… 

A stamp in your passport – prove your legal stay

According to the website of the Office for Foreigners:

If the application for temporary residence permit was made during the foreigner’s lawful residence and this application did not contain formal defects or these defects were supplemented within the time limit, the voivode stamps the travel document which confirms registration of the application. Residence of the foreigner is deemed to be legal from the date of submission the application until the date when the decision on temporary residence permit becomes final.

This is extremely important, because you will probably be without your Karta Pobytu for a few months or so, and you will need something to prove that your stay in Poland is legal. Make sure that you get a stamp in your passport. In Warsaw, the rules have recently changed, and now you have to make a separate appointment to get it. 

However: if your application contained “formal defects”, and you have to go to the Office again to hand in some documents (ticket “C”, room number 25), ask for the stamp once you hand in those documents! That will save you some time and you will not have to make an appointment again. Make sure you specifically ask for the stamp, because by default no one will offer to give you one… 

When it comes to the question of whether you can travel outside of Poland when your Karta Pobytu is in progress, read this article. 

Other important things that you should keep in mind

Missing documents not always missing

After applying for a residence permit, you will be given login data so that you can track your case online. That would be a very noble approach but…

…after logging into the system, we noticed that there was a message stating that there are some documents missing (braki do uzupełnienia). It was a document proving that the foreigner has ensured a place to live in Poland. That was quite surprising because we remembered handing in this document together with all the others. So we went to the Office for Foreigners with a copy of the rental contract to hand it in again. 

Much to our surprise, the lady attending us told us that in order for the system to work well, they have to put at least one document in the section of missing documents, regardless if it is actually missing or not! We were left speechless. We were assured that if that document was handed in before, there was no need to come to the Office again. Just an IT bug (feature?). 

Decision date

After applying for a temporary residence permit in August 2018, we received an official letter in November 2018 saying that the decision would be issued until January 28, 2019. It’s mid-February now, and of course, no decision has been made so far. We were also told at the office that complying with the deadlines is almost impossible, and to expect the decision to be delayed significantly.  Unfortunately, nowadays it is very common to wait at least for several months for your decision. 

Keep calm and keep waiting

Offices for Foreigners are said to be overwhelmed with the number of applications. That’s why, when applying, you should make sure that your documents are flawless and complete, so there is no reason for the officials to request additional documents and delay your process forever. Double and triple check the requirements, talk to the people that have gone through the process, and I’m sure you will be fine 🙂

If this post has put you down, don’t worry and watch the following video to cheer up a bit 🙂

Do you have any additional insights? Have you been through the process yourself? Share your experience in the comments, maybe it will help someone finding themselves in a similar situation. 

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Written by Karolina Kazmierska

Polish girl in love with Mexican culture and Spanish language. Experience in Marketing & HR, and also in Web Development.